Janice's deceased cousin, Desmond, didn't stand much of a chance. Once the horror of Alzheimer's disease bore down on him, he could see it was too late. From that point all he could do - so long as he retained some level of awareness - is look on passively as the disease stole more and more of his memory and cognition.
Our last partial conversation with him was in May, 2010, when he'd drift in and out of coherence and even briefly recalled an ASTRONOMY magazine I'd lent him three years earlier. Three quarters of the time, however, he spent in incoherent babble at the level of an infant.
By 2013, the disease had extracted the ultimate toll and Desmond died of asphyxia, in his sleep.
With an estimated 6 million Americans now suffering from the disease, the desire for some kind of medical breakthrough has reached the desperation stage. Most drug trials, as recently reported (e.g. in the FT and WSJ) have already collapsed, and the respective pharma companies cashed in their chips and pulled out.
A recent research breakthrough reported in The NY Times 4 weeks ago ('Study Ties Viruses Lying Dormant, To Alzheimer's) may hold out some vestige of hope. Especially for those of us over age 65 who face a probability of doubling our risk every 5 years past that marker.
The new research is a result of a soon to be published paper in the journal 'Neuron' by Rudolph Tanzi and Robert Moir, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard, respectively. Their experiments, performed on mice and on three-dimensional brain cells in a dish, found that 2 types of herpes virus (that infect most people as infants, then lie dormant for years), may play a role in how Alzheimer's develops and progresses, see e.g.
It was found these same herpes' species ignited a protective reaction in amyloid (see right side of graphic at top), a protein present in all human brains. Dr. Tanzi has described this as "seeding" the amyloid, causing it to ensnare the virus in fibrous nets that form plaques. In this way, viruses and other microbes are the prequel to the prevailing theory that Alzheimer's is caused by amyloid accumulation the brain cannot clear out.
Before continuing, it' well to point out that the virus theory is far from being accepted by most Alzheimer's specialists.
Nonetheless, the senior author of the study, Joel Dudley, asserts about the viruses: "I think they're like gas on the pedal of some pathology that may be immune driven." (Dudley was asked by the National Institutes of Health to help generate new Alzheimer's ideas by analyzing information from a consortium involving multiple brain banks and researchers.)
He was specifically interested in whether specific drugs could be repurposed to treat Alzheimer's - which has so far resisted every drug tested hitherto in hundreds of clinical trials. In the latest episodes, Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca have dropped two late stage Alzheimer's drug trials involving lanabecestat. At the end of his effort's Dudley was forced to admit: "I went looking for drugs and all I found were these stupid viruses."
The new study's researchers searched nearly 2,000 samples from the brains of 944 people who had died, some with Alzheimer's, some with other types of neurological problems and some with no impairment at all. The objective? To see if any viral gene sequences were more prevalent in Alzheimer's affected brains.
The finding: Out of some 515 potential viruses, Alzheimer's brains consistently had more of two herpes species, 6A and 7. Both are members of a family known as roseoloviruses which can go dormant then years later erupt under conditions of illness or stress. Alas, I myself have experienced such bouts - generally under high stress episodes and manifesting as small "cold sores" on the lips or tongue. Am I at risk? Maybe, but so are millions of others with similar symptoms.
The herpes viruses, to be sure, have the ability to enter brain cells and according to Prof. Dudley (ibid.): "The viruses have a direct sort of push-pull with lots of known Alzheimer's genes"
The gene ApoE4 is most known as the one known to increase the risk of getting Alzheimer's. but with the 6A herpes virus also factored in, the probability increased significantly. More importantly, two brain areas are more susceptible to harm from herpes viruses, in respect to being expressed most strongly.
Prof. Dudley is unsure whether mainstream Alzheimer's researchers will endorse the virus connection anytime soon, but they should. We need all avenues of research open to get control of this scourge which is rapidly becoming the most grievous contributor to exploding health care costs. Who knows, but the Dudley et al work may provide the key path to the cure - or at least a more formidable means of controlling disease progression.
See also this link to Alzheimer's and glyphosates:
"John (Phillips') latest findings appear to confirm a link between Alzheimer's disease and consuming GMO foods. This is something I have always suspected, as well as a link to consuming beef products, since as reported more than ten years ago (Project Censored)...The link to GMOs may be more pernicious given how widely they are consumed, and as John notes:
'Among other toxins and other health-disrupting contaminants, GMO foods contain glyphosate, a horrifically destructive chemical that saps nutrients from foods and quite literally makes them toxic to consume.' "